RSL Travel Cheat-sheet

STEP 1: Talk to your PI and your PI's admin  

  • Get approval for travel from your PI AND ask about lab-specific spending limits (food, shared lodging with colleages, etc.) and other lab policies.
  • Your PI's Admin is the know-all, end-all authority.  Be sure to connect with your Admin before purchasing any travel elements.  Admins hold Stanford Travel Cards (t-cards) which are the preferred method of payment
  • Mandatory: Use the RSL Travel Form to both plan and reconcile your travel expenses

STEP 2: Document the event and purpose

  • Note the title, type of event, dates, and url for the event
  • If you are giving a presentation or poster, document the title and citation
  • If you are a panel member, session moderator, session educator, invited speaker, document the title of the talk/session

STEP 3: Registration

  • Plan early in order to get the best registration and lodging rates
  • Submit registration for reimbursement within 10 days of purchase instead of submitting after travel. (This avoids going over the 60 day limit from date of purchase required for expense reports when submitting after travel.) A personal credit card, P-Card or T-card may be used.

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STEP 4: Lodging

Lodging, in order of preferrence

  1. Book with conference block hotels when available
  2. *Book through Stanford Travel 
  3. *^Book through the hotel directly or via a travel site (for example: Expedia)

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⚪ STEP 5: Airfare

  • Airfare must be booked using Stanford Travel platforms
  • Book early
  • Find direct flights even if more expensive
  • Do not arrive earlier than one day or leave later than one day after the conference or event. (International travel with flights that are 8 hours or longer, may arrive two days before an event and leave one day after)
  • FOREIGN flights - Air America rules apply (must book with domestic carriers)
  • PERSONAL Travel combined with Stanford business

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STEP 6: Ground transportation  

  • Ground Transportation - RECEIPTS required. 
  • Only trips to and from home/airport/hotel/venue  - no personal travel

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STEP 7: Travel Meals 

  • Check with PI on limits for food
  • No alcohol allowed on travel funded by sponsored awards
  • Reasonable meals only (no snacks or second breakfasts)

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STEP 8: Return

  • Fill-out the  RSL Travel Form
    • Document: conference title, dates, location, link to website and agenda
    • Document: purpose of trip (poster title, presentation title or session, etc)
    • Retain: Flight receipt, hotel folio, ground transportation (Uber, Lyft, etc) receipts
    • Retain: receipts for incidentals (baggage, visa fees, currency conversion fees, etc)
    • Retain: meal receipts, as needed
  • In one file, submit all the above to your Admin within 10 days of the last day of travel.
  • EXPECT: minor differences in conversion rates, possible unallowable expenses, up to 3 weeks for the expense report to clear for payment.

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Stanford & SOM Travel Polices


Stanford Travel Policy

🗝️All travel expenses must be reasonable, allowable, necessary to the award and consistent with university policies. For example:

  • -The per diem method is required when travel meal expenses will be charged to a sponsored award
  • -Alcohol cannot be charged to a federal grant or contract account under any circumstances

🗝️  For all faculty, staff, postdoctoral scholars and students when they are traveling on university-sponsored business, the university requires the use of a centralized booking program for airfare.  Stanford Travel Cards (t-cards) are the preferred method of payment, but personal funds may be used and reimbursed. 

🗝️ Reimbursements are not taxable as income to the employee, as long as the expense has a business connection and was submitted in a timely manner.

SOM Travel Policy



Standard maximum rate is $250/night

Exceptions: The rate maximums guidelines (excluding taxes/fees) can increase for the following cities:

  • $450 – Palo Alto and vicinity (10  miles from city center) - primarily for visitors
  • $385 – New York City, San Francisco including San Mateo County  
  • $330 – Chicago, Honolulu, Houston
  • $275 – Boston, Los Angeles area (includes Los Angeles County, Ventura County and Orange County), San Diego, Seattle, Washington, DC

*updated 04.26.2023

            INTERNATIONAL - 

  • When booking non-conference international lodging, be careful not to exceed the federal per diem Maximum Lodging RATE for lodging based on location.

🗝️Ground Transportation

             Round trip to Bay Area airports - maximum $230 


School of Medicine Meal Maximums 


  • Breakfast – $30
  • Lunch – $55
  • Dinner – $115

Meal Exceptions with DFA Pre-Approval – DFAS can pre-approve exceptions for in-person, high profile events, such as faculty recruitment and donor meals.


  • International meals must not exceed federal per diem M&IE RATE for meals based on location.             

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Trip Planning

talk to your PI!

Begin your trip planning by having a chat with your PI.  Faculty manage how their grant dollars are spent on travel and have set lab policies that you'll need to know. Individual lab policies may include:

  1. Shared accomodations.  If more than one lab member or division member, grad student or postdoc, is traveling to the same conference, a PI may ask that lab members share a hotel room (within reason) or an AirBnB type residence.  In some cases, a PI may only pay one portion of a lodging bill if the room/residence was shared with someone (s) outside of Stanford.
  2. Meal limitations.  PIs may set limits for daily food expenditures.
  3. Reasonable airfare.  PIs may dis-allow a trip if the airfare is excessive.

Next, meet your PIs admin, if you haven't already.  Go over your itinerary before purchasing any of the elements.  Your admin holds a department T-card (travel card) and can purchase for you AND answer all your travel questions!

Use the RSL Travel Form both as a planning tool and for final reconciliation of expenses, with or without reimbursement.  The RSL Travel Form has all necessary elements of the Cheat-sheet web-page but in a more-digestible format.

When completing travel, use the Form as a cover sheet to turn-in your expenses. If you have documented everything, an expense report should go through quickly.

Here are examples of issues that may hold-up an expense report:

  • Receipts for airfare and lodging were "reservations".  Only full paid receipts, date stamped, with itemized details,are acceptable.
  • Meals were out of policy.  Examples are: additional meals on one receipt, meals over the daily limits.
  • Expenses claimed where personal travel and/or none Stanford co-travelers were involved.
  • STAP funded travel (always takes a long time)

Don't hesitate to reach out for help!

Back to Talk to your PI

Back to Return

Registration & Lodging

policies and how-to-pay


  •          Take advantage of Early Bird Rates
  •          Discuss with PI attendance at any “add-on” events such as dinners and workshops
  •          Take note of where meals are provided
  •          Be aware of additional fees such as EventBrite registration fee, credit card processing fees , ACH transfer fees


PURCHASE: admin P-card or T-card or personal

RETAIN: paid receipt showing date of purchase, amount, and method of payment. Be sure to include documentation of added fees such as EventBrite.


POLICY: For hotel reservations, travelers have the option to book their hotel outside of the Stanford Travel program and instead use the itinerary-forwarding service.

When booking lodging, choose a standard room. Upgraded rooms, such as those with upgraded views, additional concierge service or suites, are not reimbursable unless there is no other suitable option. The business purpose should clearly explain why any non-standard room was selected.

Conference blocks

Conference hotels may be booked directly with the hotel at the conference rate, even if the conference rate exceeds Stanford's hotel and lodging rate maximums. When multiple conference hotel options are available, the traveler should choose the mid-price option. Once a conference hotel is selected, choose a standard room at that hotel. Upgraded rooms, such as those with upgraded views, additional concierge service or suites, are not reimbursable unless there is no other suitable option. The business purpose should clearly explain why any non-standard room was selected. Five-star hotels may be selected when they are the only hotel for the conference. If the only room available is at a five-star property, support must be provided showing all other rooms were sold out. It is best practice to take a screenshot of the conference website where it lists all conference hotels, as conference websites do not always preserve that information after the conference.

Per night maximum based on location: When booking non-conference lodging, be careful not to exceed the SOM Maximum domestic lodging rates or, for foreign travel, the federal per diem Lodging Maximum Rate for lodging based on location 

              Per diem lodging in lieu of booked lodging - never, don’t even try

PURCHASE: admin T-card or personal

RETAIN: paid receipt showing date of purchase, amount and method of payment. Unless the full stay was paid in advance, be prepared to retain the hotel folio noting room service, resort fees, parking fees, city taxes, reservation credit, etc., if applicable (must not be the reservation confirmation but rather the final receipt showing venue name, date stamp and method of payment). If a deposit was required and paid earlier, retain that receipt, as well.

Itinerary-forwarding Service:

In order to ensure the safety of all Stanford travelers, all airfare and lodging not booked via Stanford Travel booking channels MUST be registered with Stanford ahead of your trip. This is an automated process. Simply forward the hotel or airfare confirmation email (and any attachments) from your Stanford email address to If there are multiple itineraries (for example, flights, hotel, and car rental), forward only one at a time. You will receive a notification when your itinerary is uploaded successfully. In the event that you are unable to upload your itinerary by email, please register your trip directly in MyTrips by clicking “New User? Register Here” on MyTrips page.

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required elements and how-to-pay


REQUIRED Stanford Booking Channels

Coming Soon!

Key Travel

as of Jan2023

After a successful pilot with a few departments, we are excited to launch Key Travel as a great option for travelers and travel arrangers. Key Travel is the world’s largest travel management company specializing in the humanitarian and academic sectors. In addition to Stanford-negotiated rates, Key Travel offers flexible academic rates for international airfares that are exclusive to the academic sector. Unique features include the ability to book multiple travelers (e.g., family members) on the same reservation and provide Fly America Act guidance for federally funded travel. More information about this booking channel will be available soon.

PURCHASE: admin T-card or personal

RETAIN: paid receipt showing date of purchase, amount and method of payment. NOTE:  A reservation is not a receipt. Please find the "receipt" which should be available in your instance of the Stanford booking platform utilized.

NIH and other Federal Awards travel limitations

Foreign Travel:

  • Fly America Act
  • The Fly America Act requires all flights charged to federal awards be booked with U.S. flag air carriers, with certain exceptions (listed below). The requirement applies to all travelers, including a foreign visitor's flights when supported by federal funds.
  • Codesharing
  • Occasionally, two or more airlines will "codeshare" a flight by publishing and marketing the same flight under their own airline designators and flight numbers. You can purchase a seat on each airline’s designator and flight number, but the flight is only operated by one of the cooperating airlines. To comply with Fly America regulations, you must purchase the flight via the U.S. airline’s designator and flight number if the flight is shared between a U.S. and a foreign airline.
  • Open Skies Exceptions for International Destinations
  • One exception to the Fly America Act is the Open Skies Agreement. The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) states that qualifying travelers, whose travel is supported by federal funds may travel on certain foreign airlines as well as U.S. flag air carriers 
  • According to the Open Skies agreement between the U.S. and European Union (EU) countries, Norway or Iceland, travelers may fly on any EU airline when:
  • -Travel is NOT funded by U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) or the U.S. military, AND
  • -Flight touches down in an EU country, Norway or Iceland
  • When both conditions are met, travel should be booked on any of the U.S. flag airlines and European Open Skies airlines.
  • Visa requirements including J-1, H1B travel outside of US
    • Bechtel International Center travel and re-entry FAQ
  • Be sure to have an updated passport

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See below for:


Travel period and allowable days

A travel period may begin one day ahead of a business event (for example, arriving on Sunday for a conference that begins on Monday). For international travel that include flights over 8 hours long, a traveler may arrive two days ahead of a business event (for example, arriving on Saturday for a conference that begins on Monday). The business travel period may include weekends, holidays, and other necessary standby days if they fall between business travel days. If a traveler chooses to arrive early or to stay longer for non-business reasons, the university does not pay for expenses incurred during those additional days. Exceptions include when travel is at a lower total cost if the traveler stays over a weekend or holiday, with department approval, or when traveling more than eight time zones, The traveler must document the reason for this extra expense in order to support the non-business-day payment.

The traveler should select the most direct route for air travel, preferably nonstop or, if not available, the fewest stops possible. A more direct route is preferable over a lower cost fare. If, for other than university business, the traveler takes an indirect route or interrupts a direct route, payment for airfare will be at either the actual charge or the charge that would have been incurred by traveling the direct route by the most economical means, whichever is less. The charge that would have been incurred as the lowest available airfare for a direct route must be documented through a fare comparison.

Class of Fare and ancillary fees

The university pays for air travel in economy class for all domestic and international flights with a duration of less than eight hours. Economy class, also referred to as coach, is defined as the lowest class of air fare which includes a reserved seat, one personal item, one carry-on bag and one checked bag. If this class of fare is not available for the travel period and the most direct route, the next higher level of fare may be selected.

Ancillary Fees

The university pays for certain ancillary airline fees, including early boarding, pre-assigned seats, extended legroom (such as United Airlines Economy Plus seats or equivalent seats on other airlines), preferred seat location, checked and carry-on baggage fees, in-flight meals, and in-flight Wi-Fi service. Expenditures for these fees must be reasonable and prudent and must be properly documented. Global Entry and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) PreCheck fees are not reimbursable.

Comparable flights

Fare comparison documentation is required when any of the following occur:

  • -The trip includes a personal component.
  • -The itinerary is an indirect route. 
  • -The fare class is out of policy.
  • -The most economical method of transportation is not selected for a trip, for example, a rental car is selected instead of air travel.

The fare comparison documentation is most often in the form of a screenshot of Stanford Travel of search results taken the same day of booking from a Stanford Travel booking channel. The screenshot must visibly note the time and date of the search (i.e., from the taskbar on your desktop); include a broad set of search results (e.g., all applicable carriers); and should display the applicable parameters, such as the most direct route, excluding any personal stops and the appropriate fare class (e.g., coach, non-refundable). The expense report must include an attachment with the fare comparison documentation.

If the attached screenshot is dated post-travel, the Business Expense team will calculate an online comparison at the time of processing, and will pay based on the lesser of their own comparison or that provided by the traveler.

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Travel Meals

know what's allowable

Travel Meals

Sponsored Funds (travel funded by government agencies such as NIH, DOD.  May include certain industry or foundation sponsored awards.  Check with your PI. )


Domestic meals must not exceed GSA M&IE Rate for meals based on location AND may not exceed Stanford School of Medicine Meal Maximums:

  • Breakfast – $30
  • Lunch – $55
  • Dinner – $110
  • Reception: $40

*updated 06/02/23

Meal Exceptions with DFA Pre-Approval – DFAS can pre-approve exceptions for in-person, high profile events, such as faculty recruitment and donor meals.


International meals must not exceed federal per diem M&IE RATE for meals based on location.   

Non-sponsored Funds (travel funded by Stanford generated awards or unrestricted gift awards)

The daily maximum method allows Stanford travelers who are traveling on non-sponsored funds to be reimbursed for their actual expenses up to $75 a day for domestic trips, and $125 for international trips. Stanford travelers are not required to attach receipts in the Expense Requests System unless there is an individual expense of $75 or more, although schools and units may require all receipts to be attached at their local discretion.

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Co-travelers & Visitors

In general, the expenses of a spouse, family member or other person accompanying the business traveler are not reimbursable. Such expenses are only allowed if the accompanying person has a position with the university and is traveling to make a significant contribution in furtherance of university business



Non-Stanford travelers (visitors) must always be reimbursed for actual expenses up to the daily maximum regardless of funding source, as they are not eligible for per diem reimbursement. In these instances, all receipts are required in the Expense Requests System.